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A few weeks ago, we took our youngest child to college. I confess I started counting down the weeks to that moment even as the summer days appeared endless.

This transitional season brought with it plenty of questions and grief for me. While I knew my son’s new place of residence was where God wanted him, I wasn’t ready to let him go. It meant recognizing the end of a parenting season, a change in our relationship, and a noticeable absence in our home. However, I clung to my long-held faith that he is God’s child first. Releasing him for God’s purposes is part of parenting.

So on move-in day, we drove those three and a half hours to a city with which our family is not familiar. It is nowhere near either my husband’s or my hometown. No relatives live there. It is a small town and agricultural and we are used to the city and suburbia. Three and a half hours felt like a way longer trip into foreign territory.

After moving him into his huge dorm in the middle of unfamiliar land and saying our goodbyes, we made the trek back home. Understandably, the sobbing commenced as I made a beeline for the car. The ride home felt just as long as the ride there.

As the flood of both emotions and tears continued, I wondered. Why did this trip feel so long when my own hometown is about the same distance? My oldest son goes to school there but it does not feel so far. How does releasing your child in an unfamiliar place equally far away feel so different?

I think of all the parents around the world releasing their kids at various times for God’s purposes. Some of those places are way farther than three and a half hours. I remember the mothers in scripture who did so not knowing how deep in their souls that separation would later feel. Their narratives have been lifted up by me as inspirational. But now I sit with them. I feel their conflicting emotions more than I could have expected.

Leaving our kids in a foreign place feels counter instinctual.

Our whole lives we sought to straddle the line of protection and empowerment. Of course, we know that it will all come to fruition at that moment far down on the horizon. And then we realize it has arrived. All that we believe about God, provision, protection, and purposes looms in front of us.

Those goodbye hugs symbolize all that we have known all along. There is a time to hold tightly and a time to let go. Releasing from the embrace, I watch him walk towards his home. And my husband and I go towards ours. In all of it, I know that it’s where we are all supposed to be.

*Photo courtesy of Canva

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Debbie Prather, Author, and her son

A mother’s love letter to her son and daughter-in-law on their wedding day—

“I love you, mom.”

“Hmmm?”

(A little louder) “I love you, mom.”

“I love you too, honey, so very much.”

I’d been deep in thought, listening to the song we were slowly dancing to.

I knew this mother/son moment of ours was supposed to be the time to say all the things, but this boy and I had already said all the things, so the lyrics to the melody played in our ears:

Hold the door say please say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but…

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but…

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

As we moved from side to side, I felt in a dream and took in everything my senses could hold: the supportive, joyful faces looking on; the army of twinkling lights decorated throughout, reflected in the antique mirrors on the opposite wall; the warmth of his strong arms as we held each other.

𝙃𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙆𝙞𝙣𝙙–

𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗲, 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁𝗯𝗼𝗿𝗻, 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝗮𝘀 𝗳𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗲 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗲.

I recall Spring Break of 2017. We traveled down to warmer weather and spent time with Brett, who, at the time, was living and working in Orlando.

He had recently been out with Abby, another student he knew in college when they were part of the same circle.

She had visited Florida, also, and messaged him, just two friends reconnecting, and they went out to eat together before she headed back to the midwest.

When he and I sat on the beach in St. Petersburg about a week afterward, I asked him to tell me all about their time.

He lit up, told me a bit, and then said, “I don’t know, I just have a really good feeling.” Because of his words, I did too.

When we met Abby that summer, I immediately saw the qualities that Brett had used to describe her: kind, thoughtful, playful, smart, beautiful.

Brett fell for her fast, and so did we.

Brett’s gut instinct was right.

Our daughter-in-law, Abby, gives us all good feelings because she’s funny, sincere, creative, empathetic, hard-working, faith-filled, and full of love.

She has a special tenderness for dogs of every type, and she gives the best hugs! Unfortunately, she and I have experienced similar past heartache.

Like myself, Abby lost a parent to cancer at the time of her high school graduation.

We talked often about those profound losses in the early days of getting to know one another.

Abby’s grief was close to the surface, as it’d been six years since her mom passed away at the time we met.

With over three decades out from losing my dad, I could express to her that the pain lessened a little more each year, although, never completely.

I suspect Abby was an old soul even before her mom went to heaven, but that event, and her awareness that life is fragile and precious, make her even more so today.

She’s the perfect match for Brett: the match we’ve prayed for since he was little.

As hard as it is watching our children grow up and leave the nest, there’s nothing better than seeing them start their own family, by marrying the one God had planned for them since the beginning of time.

The night of the wedding, when Brett and I were finishing our dance, the end verses struck me.

Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line.

𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙

For many long years, to get where I was going, was to plead with God to give Craig and I strength and wisdom to raise our kids up right.

Now that they’re all but grown, I don’t take one second of it for granted.

I think of the generations that have gone ahead of us: their words of encouragement, their silent and spoken prayers, their admonitions and stories, their smiles and reassurances; extended from those who walked before and then alongside, getting us to this place.

Craig and I plan to assist, pray for, tell stories and jokes, and be there – please God be willing – in any way our children want or need in the years to come.

With a heart of gratitude, I thank the Lord for the blessing they’ve been to us, and for every single treasured, unique member that makes the love in our family vast and abundant.

𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗻𝗼𝘄, 𝗖𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗴’𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲, 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝗮𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗽 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗲𝘅𝘁 𝗼𝗻𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲.

It’s a privilege, an honor, and an undeniable gift.

So are the riches of having humble and kind young adults that make me drop to my knees in gratitude . . . I’m a wealthy woman indeed.

Proverbs 22: 4 The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.

Micah 6: 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

All credit for Humble and Kind goes to Tim McGraw for his vocal talents and the writer of the song: Lori McKenna for her beautiful words.

Wild Horses by Pixels

“Are we going to see the wild horses?” my not-yet-college-bound, have-to-be-dragged-everywhere, youngest asked. “You promised.”

We were on a college visit trip with her older brother.  5 colleges in 5 days.

The drive to see these mythical creatures on an exotic island was about an hour out of the way and I was exhausted from tours about professors/safety/dorms and hotel rooms with weird smells/bad breakfasts/non-working hot tubs.

But my memory of the picture on the cover of the book, Misty of Chincoteague, a beautiful wild horse, and her foal, drew me in and convinced me to keep said promise.

As we pulled into the park and made our way to the restrooms before embarking on our glorious, out-of-the-way adventure, signs warned not to feed the horses as they may bite and to ensure our safety by staying 40-feet away. This was exciting!

Bladders empty, we were ready!  We couldn’t wait to see these wild creatures, prancing in the sand dunes and uttering high-pitched neighs.

What happened next was stranger than strange.

We rounded the corner and there was a horse, in the middle of the parking lot.  Not prancing. Not neighing. Standing. Still. So still, we thought it might be a taxidermist’s latest “stuffing” project.

We got out. Walked around it. It did NOT move. Just stood there. We did see it take a breath, so we surmised it was alive and didn’t belong at the local Cabela’s.

The “wild horse ” in the parking lot

We had so hoped to happen upon a wild, prancing, neighing horse, enjoying the sands of Virginia beaches and its ability to roam FREE.

But what we found was more like a TAMED mule ready to plow the fields under the guise of some master who needed to get things done.

As we ventured on the park pathways, we saw a few more horse/mules milling around, and I can assure you that we were not scared, or excited, not even one little bit.

We got back in our cars and my mom thoughts took off into those mom places only they can go.

Are these horses like my kids?

Longing for adventure, FREEDOM, and curiosity to discover, hope, and dream?

But standing around, TAMED, bored, and controlled because of how me, as a mom, and society, as a whole, has directed them?

Don’t bite.
Stand still.
Be quiet.

Don’t stand up for yourself (your true self). Fit in.
Do what everyone else is doing. Stay in the box.
Control yourself at all costs.  Never color outside of the lines.

College visits.
What everyone else did.
What we were supposed to do.

Over the next days, I kept coming back and back to my thoughts and these horse-mules and my kids.

I did not want them to be mules.  I wanted them to be horses.  WILD ONES.  Not TAMED into submission to some arbitrary set of rules that who knows who made up.

I wanted them to be FREE.  To discover, hope and dream.

I talked and talked and talked to them about it.  And then talked some more.

Guess what happened?

My college-bound son said, “NOPE.”
He decided to take a gap year.
He enjoyed the end of his senior year without the pressure of choosing.
He never went to any of those 5 we had visited on that trip.
He discovered a school that made his heart happy.
FREEDOM.

My baby watched him intently.
She spent an extra year with him, the two of them becoming the best of friends.
When it was her turn, she chose an out-of-the-box school where she could get her Bachelor’s degree in two years. Two long, hard years.
She moved to California at 19 to pursue her dreams, graduation behind her.
She wants to win an Emmy.
FREEDOM.

Guess what else happened?

I began to wonder the same thing about me.

Do I have the FREEDOM to discover, hope, and dream?

As a middle-aged, regular, mom who has always played by the rules?

Who didn’t bite, stood still, and was quiet?

The answer:  YES.  YES, I DO.

I might stand up for myself.
What if I forge my own way?
Maybe I will even draw my own lines to color inside.
We’ll see how it all plays out.
It’s going to be good.
FREEDOM.

“I want you to listen, really listen to me.”I want to be heard.

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”I want to be validated.

“You never support me in front of your friends”I want to be protected.

One of the most common messages we receive at I Do Part Two is the desire to feel validated. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Validation is one of the most important tools of communication in marriage. It allows you to support your spouse, even when you disagree. 

A good example of validating your spouse’s feelings would be to put away your device when they’re talking—listen to understand what they are saying from their point-of-view.

A friend was sharing with her husband about a disagreement she had with a co-worker and he replied, “What did you do to set her off?” This would be an example of not validating your partner’s feelings.

Our feelings are like a personal alert system—they aren’t right or wrong. They reflect our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. They help us to understand how we are feeling about a conversation or an interaction with our partner. The Gottman Institute, a highly regarded licensed counseling group, points out that when our partner ignores or dismisses our feelings, “it is a form of relational trauma which, over time, harms the brain and nervous system.”

Where does this lack of empathy come from? For many of us, it’s just not in our natural wiring. And it may go way back—possible before our earliest tangible memory. As children, we may have also learned to not “talk back” to our elders, not to make too much noise, or not to bother anyone while they’re reading, cooking, or working on a project. 

Maybe you watched as one parent berated the other parent or an older sibling, and the message formed loud and clear in your growing brain, “Don’t speak up, stay small, and by all means—don’t share your feelings.”

How would you know how to show empathy and validate others’ feelings if it was never modeled for you?

Awareness: Simply recognizing that this is an issue for you and acknowledging your willingness to work on it is the first step. Experts recommend individual and couples counseling, reading books on the topic, and working on listening to understand from your partner’s perspective. Also, I would add, let them know you love and care about them, and you do not want them to feel invalidated anymore.

The Gottman Institute recommends three steps toward healing: (but friends, this will take some time.)

  1. Atone: Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is crucial; it is a practice that heals ourselves and others—again and again.
  2. Attune: This means listening, perhaps for the very first time and seeing the situation “through their eyes.” When we are really listening for understanding, we’re able to share someone else’s story from their perspective. 
  3. Attachment: If your partner is there for you and has your back, you will feel secure in your attachment to them. The closeness creates a deeper bond where trust and commitment can flourish. 

The Gottman Institute (and I paraphrase), recommends committing to repeatedly working to Atone, Attune and Attach on an ongoing basis. In other words:

  • Apologize when you are in the wrong
  • Listen to your partner and understand from their point-of-view
  • Validate your partner’s concerns, they will feel more secure.

If this story resonated with you, it’s either because you have felt “unheard” or realize you have some work to do. Friends, it’s never too late to work on your relationship skills and say you are sorry. Learning how to empathize and validate another’s feelings is probably one of the most powerful relationship skills most of us were never taught. By Lisa Reinhart-Speers

*Please note: Where a licensed expert is not credited, I share from my own experience gained from 28 years of marriage, reading loads of marriage articles and books, and working with numerous licensed marriage counselors myself over the years—much of which was sought pro-actively with my husband, so we could learn new skills as we hit road bumps or new phases in life, like empty-nesting. It is a never-ending process but well worth it—By Lisa Reinhart-Speers @I Do Part Two

Sydnei Kaplan, author /Photo by Nina Uhlíková from Pexels

As a mom of two college kids, I have a birds-eye view of this blessed journey we call Motherhood. It touches each mom in unique ways. 

Some may feel profoundly altered as if they were shaken up and settling back into place in a brand new way. Others have described this transition as a rebirth. Many have been stunned by the complete shift in focus from self-to-others. 

The possibilities are endless, but none of us emerge unaffected, and the changes continue throughout this incredible journey. 

Motherhood’s effect on me was and still is, very powerful. It has been life-changing in the best ways. 

From my vantage point, with many years and priceless memories tucked in my heart, I know with a comforting certainty that Motherhood is forever – it doesn’t stop at a certain age or stage. 

It evolves and grows with us. 

Facing the “growing up” of my children forced me to look deep within myself. To explore the next steps on my path.

We had waited some years after we were married to become parents. Those years were filled with work, friends, travel, and lots of “just us” time (which I loved). This was joyful, and it was comfortable. I also thought I loved my job, but in hindsight, I realize I mostly loved the people. It was comfortable. I liked my work (marketing and writing) but never fully felt it was my calling. 

Sydnei and family

Even though I had beautiful friendships and a loving marriage, there was a sense of insecurity deep within me that had followed me from my teen years. I’m guessing some of you know what I mean. You can be a happy, confident person but still have doubts within you that affect how you live your life.

Motherhood changed that for me. It was, and continues to be, healing in the most perfect of ways. It didn’t happen in any particular moment, like when I first held Mia or when Ben made me the mom of two. There wasn’t a specific accomplishment that made me say “aha” – like when I traveled home on a plane from our first family vacation, without my husband, and with 3-year-old Mia and not-yet-1 Ben. 

This healing – finding myself – has been a journey. It’s been a compilation of the many moments of being a mama. 

Sydnei enjoying life as it comes

More importantly, I began seeing myself in a refreshing new light. Really it was more of a subtle feeling—yet so empowering. I noticed myself feeling less dependent on others to feel happy, capable, or complete.

Through my children, I began sensing not only what I had to offer but who I truly was. 

Some steps were effortless, like starting to work in a preschool—nurturing and supporting the blossoming of little ones had always come naturally to me. 

Other pursuits, like venturing into the world of Motherhood writing, took a little more nudging. My family participated in this “nudging” in various ways — offering encouragement, sharing other’s blogs as examples to inspire me, and just continuing to be who they are and reminding me of the exquisite blessing that Motherhood is. 

So here I am, always a work in progress—feeling a renewed sense of excitement and purpose. Not only from writing, but also from the exceptional people who have come into my life because of it. 

It’s never too late to discover YOUR other passions. You will always be Mom, but there’s a world of possibility waiting for you to shine your own special light. 

Photo by Judit Peter from Pexels

“The job did come with a strange disclaimer which escaped my notice at the time.” -Alison Swan

The interview for my dream job couldn’t have gone better! I was a young 25 years old and had envisioned this moment a dozen times. It was the position of a lifetime. I knew as soon as the offer came, I had been entrusted with a tremendous responsibility. 

In some cases, I would be expected to use personal funds for travel and other work-related necessities. The firm couldn’t provide training, but I was welcome to seek assistance from more seasoned partners. 

The hours would be long, the starting pay minimal, and the schedule demanding. Yet I recognized the experience’s value would far exceed the firm’s ability to compensate. 

The job did come with a strange disclaimer that escaped my notice at the time: “Other industries may fail to recognize the transferability of your acquired skills.” 

These minor detractions did nothing to diminish my interest in the position, and I immediately accepted the job. After which, I was forced to endure a 9-month probationary period of waiting. During this period, I was permitted to decorate my office and wait. To this day, I am perplexed by the waiting. 

After the waiting period was complete, I was immediately thrown into the most demanding sector of the position. 

For the first three months, I was allowed less than 3-4 hours of sleep per night. Arriving each morning extremely exhausted had me wondering if my blurry-eyed negligence might result in a co-worker’s fatality. Thankfully there were no deaths to report.

You would think I might have quit from the stress of it all, but actually, I became quite good at juggling the requirements. Soon, what had been stressful became an enjoyable conglomerate of challenges to overcome. 

The best part of the juggling act was that no two days were the same. On a Monday, efficiency might be the best plan to achieve desired results. On a Wednesday, deep wells of patience might be needed. 

Those early years flew by—I was promoted and admired. (Well, not usually admired outwardly, but I understood, my co-workers were quite young.) The 22-year mark passed, and it felt good to know I had tenure—nothing to worry about when it came to job security with this position in the bag. 

What I am about to share next will come as a great surprise, as it did me…

I still have difficulty wrapping my mind around how it all unraveled. I was called into the head office one afternoon and told my expertise would no longer be needed. My position was being outsourced. 

I was welcome to retain my title, but every project I had worked on would be dismantled. My responsibilities outsourced to large academic institutions, and my office cleaned out. 

Years have passed since the day my position was eliminated. On most days, I hold such gratitude for the opportunity to have been offered the career of a lifetime. 

Once in a while, the memory of a position I loved so deeply leaves me wishing for what once was. In all honesty, my title became a significant part of my identity. 

It was a full and purposeful career to have raised our three beautiful and deserving children, now 25, 22, and 20. The role I accepted as a naive 25-year-old rookie resulted in greater fulfillment than I could have imagined and a lifetime of friendships with our young adults.

All grown!

An Afterword: In recent weeks, the firm asked me to return for minimal hours as a consultant—I was thrilled to be asked. Although the hours of work are greatly diminished and usually remote, it continues to be my greatest passion.

Article By Ali Flynn/Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

After many years of feeling drained as a partner and a mom, I decided to take my life back and stop going through the motions…

At some point, I lost a bit of myself along the way of raising my children.

I let go of my passions and only focused on what made my children happy.
And the funny thing is, I didn’t even know it.

Until years later, upon deep reflection, I realized the loss I was feeling.

I let go of me.

I stopped living for me and only woke up each day wondering how to make the lives of the people around me more fulfilled.

I let go of me.

I started to become a shell of a person simply going through the motions rather than living life each day. Even before the pandemic of Covid-19, I felt I was living day after day the same life over and over again.

I let go of me.

I didn’t wake up refreshed, ready to take on the day, rather I was tirelessly traipsing through the day with little to no emotion.

I let go of me.

I was trapped inside my own shell, knowing the walls to escape could be broken down but no one could reach in and help me.

I let go of me.

I had to emerge on my own…

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.

I reached deep into my soul and pulled out the old wounds and dealt with them face to face.

I slowly started to find me.

I gently traveled to the parts that I had been missing, brushed myself off while being wrapped in a warm embrace and invited myself back in again.

I slowly started to find me again.


I essentially stopped living life going through the motions.

I slowly started to find me again.

I started living and I let go of the guilt.

I let go of the looming thoughts that burdened me.
I stopped feeling selfish the times I was making myself happy.

I started living for my family as a whole.

Not just living for my husband.
Not just going about my day for my children.
But for me also.
For the first time, I was living for all of us collectively.

I slowly started to find me again.

Life has not changed drastically.
But how I look at my life has been altered.

Each day I am presented with decisions to make and I am living within the decisions, feeling each and every part of the day.

I am not going through the motions filling a void in the hollow of the shell that once existed

And oh, what a blessing it has been.

I found me! 

 

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